While it is a tough pill to swallow, the fate of Champions Ridge has been in a downward spiral for quite some time. No one can deny the time and effort the organizers, fundraisers and supporters have poured into this project. It is very much appreciated. The fact is, I believe, is the project became larger and much more involved than even the organizers could have imagined.
With the above said, I will attempt to provide some clarity as to how everything transpired and the order by which it happened.
I have gleaned information from city records all the way back to 2001. At the direction of the Leisure Services Commission, a committee was formed in 2001 to look at the needs of the various ball groups in Waverly. As a result of this action, property north of the soccer complex was purchased in 2002. The committee of 2001 presented to the City Council in 2003 the concept of relocating the diamonds for adult softball to that site. For various reasons, this did not happen and the problem of ball diamonds languished again.
The year 2006 brought glimmer of hope. A new committee was formed and looked at various sites to accommodate the growing boys’ baseball and softball, girls’ softball and adult softball programs. This group of citizens and interested parties determined that the existing facilities were the best fit.
It was a “move forward” effort next. In June 2007, a petition, with upwards of 1,000 signatures, was given to the Waverly City Council supporting a ball diamond improvement effort. As a result of this petition, the City Council established a community Ball Diamond Task Force. This task force began meeting Sept. 5, 2007. They were charged with two main objectives — identification of needs and determining a solution to address any weaknesses in Waverly’s ball diamond facilities. The task force was to present their findings to the Waverly City Council in November of 2007.
After a thorough review of existing baseball/softball programs, both youth and adult, it was the determination of the Task Force that the most feasible solution to address all of the shortcomings of the existing facilities would be to develop a single facility. This facility would be such to meet the current and future needs of adult and youth ball programs.
One of the other pluses to this concept was the idea of raising private funds to assist with the development of this project. It was also noted that trying to raise private funds may be a detriment to making it happen.
One of the first duties of the Task Force was to determine need. It was determined a property of 50-60 acres would be needed. The other part of the task was to find location.
In the meantime, discussions with the Bremer County Fair Association revealed the possibility of a joint venture. The fair’s lease of their facilities at Memorial Park were to expire in 2018 or 2019. The city had aspirations of redevelopment of Memorial Park and the fair was not part of the equation.
An agreement between the City of Waverly, Bremer County Fair Association, Waverly Adult Softball Association, Waverly Boys Baseball Organization and Waverly Girls Softball Association was signed July 28, 2008, to contract with RDG Planning and Design of Des Moines, Iowa. The contract was to study and propose possible designs for a combined fairgrounds and baseball/softball facility. The results of this contract would be presented to the City Council in November of 2008. With the inclusion of all entities, site requirement now reached 80-100 plus acres. The report was presented and one of the major concerns once again was funding.
After all site evaluations were made it was determined that the Neil Smith Property west of CUNA Mutual was the most desirable.
The Master Plan for the Bremer County Fairgrounds and Waverly baseball/softball complex was presented to the City dated February 2010. In 2011, Neil Smith and the City of Waverly reached an agreement for the city to purchase a 142-acre parcel on the North side of Highway 3 and west of CUNA Mutual. That agreement in 2011 resulted in the formation of the “Champions Ridge” project. The property was purchased in three separate installments from 2012 through 2017, with the final parcel being purchased in April 2017. The City’s total investment amounted to approximately $1,400,00.00.
As a result of the final purchase in April 2017, the Champions Ridge Group made a commitment to meet fundraising goal of $1 million by Dec. 31, 2017, and have further financial commitments in place to complete Phase 1-site preparation in 2018. Various goals and commitments were not reached according to reports given to the City Council as of Feb. 19, 2018. Extensions by the City Council extended fundraising until March 18, 2019. A report by the Champions Ridge Group in January 2019 indicated that they had reached just over $1 million. Phase 1 of the project included moving of dirt and underground infrastructure in order to make the site useable for the fair and ball diamonds. Phase 1 had an estimated price tag of $2,500,000. Unfortunately, it came down to many, many citizens voicing support for Champions Ridge, but not enough opened their wallets.
The original development agreement between the City of Waverly and the Champion’s Ridge group allowed the Bremer County Fair Association to purchase 40 acres which would meet their site requirements with sharing of parking, streets and other items with the ball diamond groups. In return, the city would build a lift station to take care of sewage requirements, continue to own and maintain the diamond property. The ball diamond group would be responsible for building the diamonds and other facilities.
In a statement to the Waverly City Council in January 2019, the Champions Ridge group stated that all fund raising had been suspended and a new plan would be forthcoming. Subsequently, two offers by the ball diamond group to purchase the balance of the Smith property, approximately 100 acres, from the city were made. Both offers by the ball diamond group were rejected by the City Council as not being feasible as secure financing to purchase and complete the project were not adequate.
The consensus by the Waverly City Council at the July 1, 2019, council meeting was, “It was time to take control of providing for our youth and adult baseball and softball facilities.” Thus, the statement, “We are pulling the plug.”
The Bremer County Fair Association has their site and will be given the deed when some conditions that have been imposed are met. Hopefully, they can commence construction this fall.
With concerns for our ball programs and facilities being discussed as early as 2001 to the present, it is time to serve those that will benefit. Two and possibly three generations of youth that updated diamonds and facilities would have benefited have lost out. It is time.
The city is committed to making this happen. We believe that it is still possible to make this a public-private project. With this in mind and confident that everyone is serious, I will appoint a task force to evaluate various sites and facilities. The members of the task force will be presented to the Waverly City Council for their approval at the July 15 council meeting. With approval, meetings will start immediately. Depending on the task force’s findings, results may be apparent this calendar year.
Please stay tuned.